Scott Fennessy: Pirates extract revenge on Cubs

457px-Andrew_McCuthen_during_Spring_Training,_March_8,_2016Wrigley Field
Chicago, IL
April 27, 2015

The Cubs return home after a terrific home stand and face the Pirates in the opening game of the series. Tonight’s game features a solid matchup between Gerrit Cole (2-1) who lost to Chicago last time out on an Anthony Rizzo homer late in the game. He faces Jon Lester (3-0).

The Pirates score first, and Lester did most of the work for them. He was unusually wild, walking two hitters, hitting a batter and threw a wild pitch that allowed a run to score. Catcher Miguel Montero had a conversation with his hurler and gets the next two hitters, but the Pirates get a 1-0 lead, and honestly Lester should be glad it was not a lot more.

The wild bug must be in the air tonight as Cole also struggled in the first inning. He walked Dexter Fowler, hit Rizzo, which lead to a heated exchange between the two and the umpire issued warnings to both teams. Miguel Montero singled but Fowler was nailed at the plate as the inning ends with the Pirates still holding a 1-0 lead.

The score was still the same as we head to the fourth inning, and while neither pitcher seems to have good control tonight Cole is starting to game command of his breaking ball while Lester seems to be having “one of those nights”.

Francisco Cervelli rips a one out double off the left center field door, and it looked like the Cubs could still get out of the inning but Gerrit Cole slips a two strike grounder that is just out of Javier Baez’s reach for an RBI single. Fowler makes a strong throw but Cervelli was off with the pitch and slides in just ahead of Montero’s tag. Cole had moved to second on the throw and he scores on Sterling Marte’s single to right. Lester gets the third out, but the lead for Pittsburgh is now 3-0.

The Cubs go down quietly in the fourth, but the Pirates continue to hit. (probably remembering last week’s whippings laid on them) Jung Ho Kang draws a one out walk. The bullpen is now in action as Neil Walker, returning from a brief DL stint hits one that Starlin Castro boots and runners are on the corners.

Pedro Alvarez hits a single to center and Kang scores. Montero comes to the mound again as the bullpen is not ready yet. Jordy Mercer ends Lester’s terrible night with an RBI double into the left field corner and two more runs score. Brian Schlitter comes in to finish the inning, but he Pirates are well ahead now with a 6-0 lead.

Cole finally gets control of the strike zone and the Cubs are pretty much toast at this point. Schlitter is replaced by C.J. Edwards who really gets hit hard in the sixth inning. After striking out Marte he grooves a pitch that Gregory Polanco powders for a solo homer to left field. Andrew McCutchen singles and is erased in a fielder’s choice by Kang, and Kang moves to third on Walker’s first hit of the evening. Alvarez hits a soft single to center that scores another run and the inning ends shortly afterward with the Pirates now leading 8-0.
That was still the score in the bottom of the ninth when Chris Coghlan hits a two run shot to finally put the Cubs on the scoreboard, but the final ended up Pittsburgh 8, Chicago 2. The Cubs are still ahead of the surprisingly strong Phillies, but the Pirates move into third place.

For the Cubs pitching it was not all bad, as Rafael Soriano and James Russell each chip in a scoreless inning.

Andrew McCutchen is still the heart of this team, hitting .406 with 6 HR and 20 RBI, but Jung Ho Kang is quietly hitting .314.

Around the horn:

Matt Garza of the Brewers had a great night by anyone’s standards, but for a D starter, going the distance and allowing just 1 run on three hits is a masterpiece.

Clayton Kershaw is starting to go on a roll. After a 10 strikeout performance last time out he strikes out 15 as the Dodgers beat the Padres 6-1 in San Diego.

Just a week ago Zach Duke of the White Sox set the consecutive strikeout record. The previous record had stood for 4 years. It took Danny Salazar of the Indians a week to break it. He struck out 7 straight against the tough Kansas City Royals, who have been playing better ball lately.

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